Friday, October 21, 2005

Kings 7: Stars 2

Wow. That's a major league ass-kicking. I can't really write a recap, because I only saw the first period, then I left to see the Destroyer/New Pornographers show, for which I hope to have a review shortly.

But hey, 7-2. Woo!

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Kings 5: Avalanche 4

This team still has something to prove in the young season. Despite four wins in their last five, the Kings had yet to respond to a test on the road. On opening night, the Kings blew a 4-0 lead to the Dallas Stars, losing 5-4. Tonight was their first road game since that night, and the Kings stepped it up, turning a three goal deficit into a one goal victory.

The Avs got the scoring going in the first, with Ian Laperriere firing home a writster from between the circles. The Kings fought back, with Pavol Demitra getting the team's first short-hander of the season on great pass from Craig Conroy as the Kings took advantage of a bad change. The Avs got it back quickly, with Andrew Brunnette tipping home a Rob Blake slapshot on the same power play. Lappy would push the advantage to two goals just before the end of the period.

Joe Sakic gave the Avs their biggest lead six and a half minutes into the second, getting a power play goal, and that seemed to wake up the Kings. Demitra got his second of the night, this time finishing off a nice cross ice pass from Dustin Brown. Lubo ripped home a shot right off the face off to Aebischer's right, bringing the Kings within one. With less than a minute to go in the period, Sean Avery, who was all over the ice again tonight, tied the game. The Kings had the better of play in the third period, but it looked as if the game would go into overtime. Credit the new rules, however, as the Craig Conroy tallied the game winner with about a minute to play. Aebischer went out to play the puck behind the net, but it rolled away from him and outside of the playable zone. Caught in no-man's land, Aebischer tried to scramble back to the net, but couldn't do so before Conroy buried a pass from Alexander Frolov.

The Kings have now won five of their last six, and meet up with the same Stars team that stunned them on opening night. It's the second time the Kings have had back to back games. They're one for one in that situation, but that was at home against an opponent who had also played the night before. A win tomorrow night would be a signal that the Kings just might be for real. LaBarbera figures to get the start in Andy Murray's goalie rotation. He's been excellent, although he hasn't faced the same level of opponent that Garon has. Whatever. He's getting the job done, and so far, I like the rotation. It will be mentioned a lot, but it's not unlike the Hrudey/Berthiaume rotation that the Kings used under Tom Webster in the 1990-1991 season when the Kings won the Smythe Division.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


I could use this space to do a season review, but the Chronicler already covered that, and frankly, if I want to relive the season, I can just go back and re-read the things I wrote over the last five months. So I'd rather use this space to look ahead. In some sense, these season previews are extremely premature, but that doesn't make them any less fun. So keeping in mind that I haven't really worked out a format, and that it could change throughout the course of this post, I'll do a position by position analysis of what what I suspect we'll see, and what I'd like to see next season. So let's get started


What I suspect we'll see: I think there's a 50/50 chance that Bengie will be back next season, if not better. I think teams are smart enough to realize that this season was an abberation offensively, and while he had an excellent ALDS, I'm guessing that will be balanced out by his unimpressive ALCS. Teams that do their homework will realize that his defense has suffered, although he does deserve some credit for the success of the pitching staff. He'll get some action on the market, but as the dollars go up, teams will realize that he really isn't that much of an upgrade, regardless of what they currently have behind the plate, and though they may overpay, the Angels will pony up the extra half million it will probably take to sign him. Failing that, I think Jose will get 65-70% of the starts, with Mathis backing him up.

What I'd like to see: Bengie in another uniform, Mathis the majority starter, with Jose backing him up and getting the starts against the toughest right handers. I'd like to see about 70% Jose in April, with that trending downward by about 7-10% each month, to the point where Mathis is getting most of the starts by July, with the idea of Mathis being the number 1 guy in 2007.


What I suspect we'll see: Erstad. He'll be here one more year, and I really don't think they're going to move him back to the outfield. In the team's opinion, the risk of injury is too great. As I mentioned in a comment at the Chronicler's site, I say big deal. What's the downside of an Erstad injury to anyone not named Darin Erstad? Are they really that much worse off without him in the lineup? Kotchman will factor in as well. Between days off for Erstad and the DH position, I think he'll play in roughly 120 games

What I'd like to see: Kotchman, Kotchman, and more Kotchman, with Erstad either in center field or left out. kotch needs to play every day. The Angels need his bat in the lineup, and the drop-off defensively, if the scouts are right, will be negligible. It certainly won't be enough to make up the gap in the extra offense that Kotchman will provide.


What I suspect we'll see: Kennedy. Another year on the contract, and what could be a big year. He's another year removed from his 2004 injury, and he's in a contract year, which should add some incentive. I see no downside, really. The only alternatives are to make Figgins the every day second baseman, or to use Izturis, and neither of those are realistic or necessary. And if he does break out, he'll either be a key piece in a third straight trip to the post-season, or he'll be dealt in late July for a mid-level prospect or better.

What I'd like to see: See above. I think that pretty much covers it. Looking ahead, I'd expect that he will not be re-signed as the team prepares to turn the position over to Howie Kendrick in 2007.


What I suspect we'll see: McPherson, occasionally spelled by Figgins and, on rare occasions, Izturis, with some time at DH. D-Mac missed much of spring training last season, and the first few weeks of the season. Despite a power surge in late May/early June, he never really got going, and injuries were probably the main culprit. His defense, in my opinion, was adequate to good, and a pleasant surprise given the scouting reports coming in. Although he lacks the range of Glaus, I found his arm to be much more consistent.

What I'd like to see: Lots and lots of D-Mac. I really do think that with a full spring, and if his injuries are behind him, he could hit 30+ homers next year.


What I suspect we'll see: Orlando Cabrera proved himself to be an outstanding defensive shortstop, and deserves some credit for the improvement of the pitching staff. The Angels could use some more offense out of him, and although reports are that he felt more comfortable in the 2 hole, his numbers didn't improve appreciably when in that spot. Still, he doesn't strike out a great deal, and he's not an awful hitter as a number 2. But I wouldn't expect great things from him offensively over the last three seasons of his contract. If he's average in two of those and above average in the other, I think that's all the Angels can reasonably hope for.

What I'd like to see: I have no problem with OC staying in OC for two more years, but I'd like to think the Angels will be smart enough to move him out if and when Brandon is ready.


What I suspect we'll see: Garret Anderson will spend the majority of time here should he stay healthy. The rest of the time he'll DH, and this spot will be covered by some combination of Juan Rivera and Chone Figgins. GA has three years left, kids. He's not going anywhere.

What I'd like to see: Rivera and Figgins almost exclusively with the occasional start by Anderson, unless the winter rest relieves Anderson of some of his many ailments. When healthy, he's an excellent fielder, but he was clearly affected by some combination of age and injury this season.


What I suspect we'll see: Unfortunately, I think management will commit to Finley here until mid-May or so, by which time he'll either have experienced a rebirth, or he will have made clear to everyone that he's done. There was optimism late in the season when he was benched for long stretches. And he did provide some very big hits down the stretch in the race for the division championship, but after Scioscia took the bait, Finley pulled the switch, disappearing in the playoffs until Scioscia, in a desperate move, benched him in favor of the aging Anderson in center in game five of the ALCS.

What I'd like to see: Erstad for the majority of the season, spelled by Figgins when he isn't giving someone else a day off. Like I said earlier, it's possible that his body can't handle a full season of center field. Well, for starters, that's what Figgins is for. And second, so what? If he gets hurt, the result is that his bat comes out of the lineup in exchange for maybe a small drop-off on defense (but not assuredly), and a loss of some versatility as Figgins would become the every day center fielder. That's a chance I'm willing to take.


What I suspect we'll see: Vlad.

What I'd like to see: A rotation of Izturis and Quinlan. Just kidding of course. Despite missing a month of the season after Ron Roenicke inexplicably sent him from first on a double, leading to an awkward slide and a shoulder injury, Vlad still hit 30 homers (leading the team by a ton), and drove in over a hundred runs. He suffered through a stretch where he wasn't getting anything to hit, a frequent target of intentional walks. When he did get something to hit, he obviously tried to do too much and went into a prolonged slump. He escaped in time to lead the team to another division title. He'll be a fixture here at least through 2007, at which point he might move to DH for the final year of his current contract.


What I suspect we'll see: Some sort of platoon by Kotchman and Rivera, both of whom should be in the field more often than not. They'll be splitting at bats when they should both be in the lineup.

What I'd like to see: Mostly Anderson. Play him in left about 25-30% of the time, on which days Figgins can give McPherson or Vlad a day off their feet at DH.


What I suspect we'll see: Ztu, Quinlan, Davanon, whomever is sitting in favor of Figgins, that day's loser in the Kotchman/Rivera battle, and the backup catcher of the day.

What I'd like to see: Ztu, Quinlan, Davanon, whomever is sitting in favor of Figgins, and maybe Brian Specht or Zach Sorensen, either of whom if taught to play outfield, could be a very versatile utility guy, and could at least be as valuable as Finley, who should be cut barring a terrific spring. Granted, I know virtually nothing about Specht other than he's a middle infielder who had a very solid season as the bat coming back from injury. Someone who knows more can tell me I'm full of crap. But if the first four are set, you really need another outfielder (although Quinlan can play left). I'd rather one of those guys learn than surrender more at bats to Finley. Also, backup catcher of the day.


What I suspect we'll see: Colon, Escobar, Lackey, Santana, and Byrd, or another free agent. Washburn leaving appears to be a done deal at this point, which leaves Byrd as the likely candidate to return, preferably with a one year deal. If he commands too much on the free agent market, then I wouldn't mind seeing Arte either go for broke with a guy like A.J. Burnett (hey, fight fire with fire, our AJ against yours). The alternative would be to see who steps up among Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver, and Chris Bootcheck, with the option of a late spring trade if none of those guys are capable of winning the job.

What I'd like to see: Pretty much what you see above. I say let Washburn go, unless something breaks and he's not as valuable as we suspect. Bring Byrd back, but only on a year deal, or maybe a one year deal with an option/buyout for the second year. Give Saunders a chance to grow another year, or even make him the lefty and long option out of the pen, with an eye on moving him into the rotation in 2007, alongside Weaver who would replace Escobar as his contract expires.


What I suspect we'll see: Frankie and Shields are no-brainers, as it probably another year of Donnelly and Yan. I expect final two spots to be used on Bootcheck and whatever lefty they sign in the coming months, if not Saunders. I'd have no problem with Saunders in this position, but I'd like to see him as more than a LOOGY if he's going to start in 2007. He could be a good in that role, however, if they also give him longer outings in mop-up.

What I'd like to see: Pretty much what you see above. What I don't want to see is big money being thrown at a LOOGY or seventh inning guy. First, I think this coaching staff has shown an excellent ability to identify middle to late relief talent, Turnbow, Wise, and Jenks notwithstanding. I don't know, maybe the magic is gone, but I think those guys validate this skill more than anything. The talent is there, they just need to utilize it a little better than they did this season. I'd rather not see them throw money at this spot. Lord knows too many bad contracts have been given to the Mark Petkovseks and Mike Remlingers of the world. Relief talent at the back of the rotation is often a crapshoot. I'll take my chances with the coaching staff and use that money elsewhere.

To shorthand it, here's what I suspect to see on opening day next season:
Pos  Player
DH Figgins
SS Cabrera
RF Guerrero
LF Anderson
3B McPherson
C Bengie/Jose Molina
1B Erstad
CF Finley
2B Kennedy

SP Colon
SP Escobar
SP Lackey
SP Santana
SP Byrd

Bench Quinlan, Izturis, Davanon, Backup catcher,
Rivera, Kotchman

Pen Frankie, Shields, Donnelly, Yan, Bootcheck,
Saunders, or free agent
I think that's 26 players, actually, so something's gotta give. Someone will probably get hurt in the spring.

Here's what I'd like to see, with what I see as the difference (positive/negative):
Pos  Player     gain/loss
CF Figgins =
SS Cabrera =
RF Guerrero =
DH Anderson + over 2005 DH spot
LF Rivera + def and probably off over GA
3B McPherson + power makes up for def lost (Fig)
1B Kotchman + Offense makes up for slight def loss
C Mathis - growing pains, but a long term move
2B Kennedy + one year removed from injury

SP Colon - slight regression
SP Escobar + hopefully healthy
SP Lackey + continued improvement
SP Santana + year of experience
SP Byrd/FA + over last year's #5 depending

Bench Quinlan, Izturis, Davanon, Backup catcher,

Pen Frankie, Shields, Donnelly, Yan, Bootcheck,
Saunders, or free agent
I see the bench and pen being about the same. Not appreciably better, not significantly worse.

Clearly, there's a lot that can and will happen between now and when pitchers and catchers report, and probably some more movement between that time and opening day. This is essentially an exercise in futility before we know what might happen. According to the Times, they could anyone from Konerko to ManRam to Carlos Delgado. Really, I hope they don't. If I'd wanted them to do something like that, I would have put it up there. This Angels team has the minor league talent and the budget to be the spend the next decade as the Yankees of the last decade. I'd rather not see them blow that by becoming the Mets of the last decade, throwing good money after bad. This is the strongest the farm has even been in my lifetime, and it's happening at a time where we all have the tools to follow the progress of the prospects like never before. Winning is fun, but one of the things that made 2002 great was the personnel that the Angels took to the Championship. I think it will be more fun to watch a victory lap by the guys that we followed as they climbed the ladder. As such, my general philosophy is when in doubt, go with the kids.

Time to relax and watch the lucky ones battle it out. I've got a hockey season, college football season, and college basketball season to keep me busy until March, but I'll always have one eye trained on the Angels. Fire up the hot stove. It's gonna be an interesting winter.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Day off

Been a long season. No hockey tonight. No Angels for a while. Takin' a day off. I'll have a more substantial season wrap up/look ahead post tomorrow.

Anyway, it seems like a good time to say thank you to everyone who stopped by here on a regular basis, and even to those who just stopped by occasionally. I've enjoyed keeping this thing going for a while, and it was an exciting, frustrating, infuriating, and fun season. I'll be doing occasional Angels stuff during the off-season, commenting on developments as they........develop, I guess.

I'll also be doing the other non-baseball stuff I've been doing all along, like concert reviews, the infrequently random off topic posts, etc. I'll also be doing more or less the same thing for the LA Kings, UCLA football and basketball, and Illinois basketball (I'd rather not admit we have a football team), all of which should be over or winding down in time for the next baseball season to start.

Thanks to the rest of the halosphere, you know who they are, for directing some traffic over this way. The give and take between our community has been interesting and insightful, and I look forward to continuing it over the off-season and into next year. I don't do it for the numbers (which is good, because the numbers ain't too impressive), but it's nice to know that someone is reading every now and then. Thanks to the non-baseball linkers like Pops, JenJen, the Ironchef, NFLAdam, and Pinko and the crew at 3Bulls! (I have another video extra coming soon, I swear). Read 'em. They're funny, and they're better writers than I am.

So thanks again. I'm not going anywhere, so don't be strangers.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


I think the lesson is clear. Winning game one is for suckers.

There's probably more I should write about this game, this series, this season, but I just don't feel like doing it right now. Everything went wrong for this team at the wrong time. And it may sound petty, it may sound like I'm not giving the White Sox starters any credit, but this was not a major league offense that they were facing. This was the same offense we'd seen disappear for weeks at a time during the regular season. This offense was worse than when Vlad was on the DL, because at least then there wasn't another automatic out in the lineup back then (only semi-automatic). Four complete games is not the sign of a hot staff, it's the sign of major leaguers facing a high school team.

Were the umps to blame? They certainly didn't help. None of the losses were their fault, but in another universe, it would be nice to see how the series would have played out with something approaching competent officiating. I said before that if the Angels won or if the Sox put it away early, then we can't blame the umps. I still think that's true. If this team was truly shaken up by some bad calls, and as a result could not find a way to push through, then they didn't deserve to be in this position to begin with.

There's a lot of work that needs to be done in the off-season, and I'll probably address that in the next few days, but I will say that there's a lot of work that I think simply won't be done. Too many guys that need to be shown the door are still under contract. We can all talk about what we think they need to do, and what we hope they will do, but when it all comes down to it, Darin Erstad will be at first base next season. Steve Finely will be in center. Garret Anderson will be patrolling left. Juan Rivera will be on the bench. Bengie Molina will probably be behind the plate. I'll say right now that 2006 does not look good, and while 2007 looks better (assuming Stoneman doesn't get all trade-happy), I don't think we'll be back in the post-season before 2008, when Kendrick, Wood, Morales, McPherson, Mathis, and Kotchman will be in the lineup every day.

White Sox 4; Angels 3 - White Sox win series 4 games to 1

A veritable offensive explosion, all three runs of it, for the Angels wasn't enough. No umpires to blame this time, just basic stupidity.

If there's more scoring, I don't care.

Kings 3: Blue Jackets 1

I was watching this on the split screen, with the Angels on one side and the Kings on the other. Man, this widescreen technology rocks. Anyway, seemed like a pretty good game by the defense, and LaBarbera is taking some strides toward making himself the number one goaltender.

Armstrong got a gift goal as the Kings finally scored on a 2 man adavantage when he was able to bank one off the defenseman and into the net. They added the second one a nice little two man play from Avery to Frolov, who picked the pass out of his skate, then drove it through Mark Denis' five hole. Cammalleri finished the scoring for the Kings when he rifled one from just inside the left circle past Denis low to his stick side. Two points on the night for Cammy, who needs to get going if he wants to see his name on the lineup sheet.

4-1 on the homestand, which is a nice turnaround from the opening season loss. Their 4-2 record, and 8 points, has them tied with Dallas for the lead in the Pacific Division (Dallas with a game in hand), as they take to the road for two games before returning home for three more. These next five games take on added importance because they'll spend most of November on the road, including two trips to Chicago. A couple with Detroit in that stretch, as well as matchups with Dallas in Vacouver. They need to take advantage of the soft spots in the schedule if they want to make the playoffs.

UCLA 44; Wazzu 41 (F-OT)

Well, I was so distraught about the Angels loss that I didn't have the heart to do a write up on this game last night. In addition, I was pretty pissed off at the way the Bruins played last night, especially on defense. I've never sat and watched one of my teams come back from such a huge deficit and been so indifferent. I was just pissed at the predictable way in which they gave up 180 rushing yards to Jerome Harrison in the first half

Give the Bruins a lot of credit, though. Every time I though "they need seven here or the game is over", they got into the end-zone. Drew Olson looked shaky early, but he really put it together in the second half, ending the game with 338 yards and five touchdowns. On the ground Maurice Jones-Drew had over 100 yards and a touchdown (the game winner in OT), as well as a 45 yard receiving touchdown.

The key to the game, in my opinion, was the drive at the end of the third quarter/beginning of the fourth. With the Bruins trailing by 17, and the defense finally starting to step up, UCLA took the ball on their own 20 with 23 seconds remaining. They got a pass interference call for 15 yards. Then Olson threw to Jones-Drew for 12 yards, ending in a late hit penalty for another fifteen yards. As time expired in the third quarter, WSU roughed Olson for another 15 yards, setting up an untimed play at the end of the quarter. 3 plays, 23 seconds, 57 yards. Olson then completed a 7 yard pass to Marcus Everett before the teams switched sides of the field. Another quick hit to Everett got the ball to the nine yard line, and from there, Olson hit Marcedes Lewis for the touchdown. 80 yards, 53 seconds, 7 points. It's a lot easier to come back from a 1o point deficit in one quarter than a 17 point deficit. And I can't fail to mention that the drive that tied the game was 96 yards long. Impressive work by the senior quarterback.

Tough game, first real road test, and under difficult circumstances, they found a way to pull it out. The Bruins are still undefeated, and they're officially bowl eligible. But my expectations for this season are certainly tempered a bit. After watching the last two games, watching the defensive line get hammered, and watching Berkely's and Wazzu's running backs have field days againt the Bruins defense, I swear, Reggie Bush is going to run for 1,000 yards against this team.